Sunday, February 6, 2011

A Shout Out to OCD Reflections: Things I Have Learned The Hard Way

Imperfectly perfect

None of my progress in Exposure Therapy has come through being perfect. None of it was perfect. My therapist said this last week, and it has been on my mind. Perfection was not required in order to do my exposures, live my life, get better from OCD. In fact perfection is the enemy of ever getting started. Then I read Fellow OCD Sufferer's latest post, Things I Have Learned the Hard Way. I encourage you to go read it if you haven't already. She's getting at the heart of some really important stuff for those of us who suffer with perfectionism OCD. I especially resonated with this:
The thing that I kind of overlooked was that whole middle part - you know, the part where you have to do the work and you don't like it and you feel like it's "too soon" or "too much" or "not time yet." Yeah, I kind of forgot about that part. . .
Waiting for the day when I feel like being "better" to take action, waiting for a time when I'm 100% sure I want to be well and want to do exposure, isn't exactly a sure-fire strategy. In fact, in retrospect, it's almost doomed to fail. It is unlikely that there will come a day when suddenly getting "better" seems easy or completely "right." If that day does come, it probably means that I'm doing something wrong...
I overlooked the middle part too. Like Fellow OCD Sufferer, I am an "OCD Nerd" and had read a thesis' worth of information about OCD, and wanted to do my Exposure Therapy perfectly, which delayed me actually doing much in the way of exposures for my perfectionism for almost a year. In spite of muddling along, I am getting better. My therapist would say there is no other way, that perfection is never an option. This is both liberating and scary. The perfectionism chimes in with "Well, if you can get better, then you will REALLY have to be perfect." I am getting better at recognizing all the guises of my perfectionism, and how rickety the arguments are, and how stifling. I am heartened to read posts where a fellow sufferer gets to the heart of the matter, the moment where you move forward, in the midst of all the "not ready" "not yet" "not right" moments.


  1. So true. So true.
    By the way, I'll have to try the baked oatmeal. Thanks for the suggestion. :)

  2. Ah, I've been meaning to leave a comment all week, but haven't had much time to check in with my blog and read others' posts! Thanks for the shout out :). I'm always honored when you mention me in your blog!!

    One thing you wrote really resonated with me - the OCD voice saying, "Well, if you can get better, then you will REALLY have to be perfect." So often it seems like compulsions that have long since lost their original purpose take on new meaning: a shield from having to be perfect. It feels like as long as I am still fairly impaired by my compulsions, I can allow myself to be "imperfect" in other areas of my life because I can't follow all my OCD rules and do everything else "right," too! As I find myself starting to come out on the other side of this as a much more mentally "healthy" person, I'm realizing that I don't have to go back to the way I was "before" just because I'm getting better. Before I didn't know about OCD. I didn't know about how in had sunk its teeth into so many aspects of my life. Now I have a much better understanding of how this disorder has shaped my thoughts and beliefs, and just because I am able to overcome some of my more recent contamination compulsions doesn't mean that I have to re-adopt other old compulsions!

  3. Fellow Sufferer--You are most welcome! I really got a lot out of your post. The image of impairment a shield from having to be perfect is very apt.